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Room Acoustics Treatment – How To Improve your Sound

Oh, hey there! Welcome to our little abode for streamers who want to take their game to the next level! You’ve found the hub of information about streaming we like to call “The Haven for Streamers”. So what exactly is room acoustic treatment, and why is it important for you?

Well, It is essentially just some padding for your room to help improve the acoustic environment, which boosts your stream’s production value & microphone audio quality. However, this padding can’t just be any old pillow, mattress top, or Egg Cartons. (Technically, those objects do work, but egg cartons on a wall are a fire hazard and provide nothing for acoustic isolation)

If you prefer a video format of this subject, Bobby Owsinski did a fantastic job covering this subject, and we recommend you give this a watch.

Bobby is a Professional in-room acoustic treatment and home studios and is the video we referenced for our initial knowledge back when we regularly streamed. Be sure to come back if you’d like to hear some stuff not mentioned in there, including some low-cost High-end DIY panels & more!

DIY Room Acoustic treatment is the most versatile and best quality options for those on a tight budget

We’d like to bring your attention to this video by an amazing gentleman, Matthew Perks, who runs the channel “DIY Perks”. He is known to produce stunningly crafted DIY projects that hold high aesthetic value & functional excellence.

In the case of the subject of this article, he made some high-end DIY acoustic panels that look & sound absolutely amazing. Why wouldn’t you want something in your room that looks good that improves the quality of your audio? You’re a Livestreamer! They can be used in the backdrop of your webcam, and look nice in your room even when it is being used for friends & family.

They also work great for Home Theaters, and you really don’t want to aggravate any SO with ugly panels for a better movie experience, do you? DIY can result in more panels for less, you just need to put in some elbow grease, and take it from there.

The best part about DIY?

You could buy a bunch of acoustic material, wrap it in a canvas painting, and it becomes a functional piece of art! One that improves the quality of your audio and doesn’t look out of place! As far as we are aware, they don’t sell them premade like that. (Which is a shame! Somebody get on that!)

Oh! We were blabbering on so much about how good DIY acoustics were that we almost forgot! Here’s that video!

Watch the end to see the difference adding these can make.

Ready to create your own canvas painting panels? Here’s a list of stuff to buy.

If you’re convinced by Matt’s panels but aren’t a fan of that triangular panel look, Perhaps this setup could be handy for you.

What you will need:

To create the panel, measure the internal diameter of the canvas painting, top to bottom, right to left, and cut the insulation to fit inside snugly. Then place the burlap over the rear, and glue/staple it in place.

The burlap will keep the insulation inside of the canvas, and you merely need to hang it up!

Note: the Canvas should be decently sized for maximum effect, Multiple small ones in a collage will work too, but will likely cost more money and take more time.

You can substitute the insulation for towels as well, but they will eventually get musty as they are highly absorbent, and are a fire hazard on your wall.

The myths surrounding acoustic treatment from half-truths

egg cartons are terrible as acoustic absorption panels
Egg Cartons were used way back in the day for super-tight budget Home Studios. These….don’t really do much of anything, despite their resemblance to acoustic foam. They simply are not dense enough to have a real effect on the sound.

Wait, so I can’t just save up a bunch of egg cartons and nail them to the wall?

You can, but it is a dangerous material that doesn’t exactly work well.

Just remember, anything you put in a room will change its sound characteristics. Literally anything. But You’ll want to avoid Egg Cartons for a number of reasons.

If you want to try it, we can’t really stop you. But we want to save you some time, and a few holes in the wall. Egg cartons do help with acoustic dampening (BARELY!!) but have a lot of drawbacks that make them not worth it, despite their resemblance to much more expensive acoustic foam.

Not to mention that you’re going to need a whole lot of nails in or glue on the wall because egg cartons simply aren’t that big!

Oh, and it attracts insects…

Cheap Acoustic foam?

Then I’ll just put up some cheap acoustic foam, and cover everything!

This works, and is what most novices on a tight budget use. However, using it correctly is as important as using the right material.

There are those who completely cover the walls, corner to corner with acoustic foam, as though it were meant to handle a denizen of Arkham Asylum in solitary confinement. Unfortunately, the fact is, that’s wasteful and actually has a negative effect on the sound. If you skipped that video by Bobby linked at the top, we really do recommend watching that to learn where to put the panels. Where they are in a room matters a lot.

We’ll come back to this, but remember one key fact; Mass = Absorption.

This is why insulation is the best for acoustics, it’s extremely dense and fire-resistant. Acoustic foam is both of these usually but is also usually glued onto the wall permanently.

This is why we recommend people to instead buy or make insulation panels. When you remove Acoustic foam, you tend to destroy it and scuff up the wall. With insulation panels, you can simply hang it on a wall as you would a picture frame and take it down, and with you, if you move to a different room or house later.

Let’s take a look at the areas of a room that causes issues

man stressed out from all the problem areas in a room for acoustics

Ever go into an empty room? We mean, like, really empty. Did you notice your voice echo’s like crazy? Well, That effect is precisely what we are combating with room acoustic treatment. Mundane objects contribute to the room’s tone, but more often than not, the objects aren’t quite dense enough to absorb everything we need them to.

That’s where those panels come in. Indeed, a room has several acoustical weak points:

  • Windows
  • Doors
  • room shape
  • corners
  • object placement in rooms
  • object material
  • noisy electronics
  • noisy clocks
  • fans – Ceiling, Window, Freestanding, PC Fans
  • AC
  • Central Air
  • Washing machines
  • Water/gas pipes.
  • ETC.

You see Mr. Goodhand gasping for air, his lungs overworked from that absurdly long list. As he catches his breath, he looks to you, eyes reflecting the glinting smile on his face. He finally manages to catch his breath, and he continues… Ahh…That’s better. Where were we?

Ah yes. Weak points.

It is a lot to take in there, but these are just some of the problematic areas of a room that you might have. But don’t worry, we’ve outlined some of the things you can do to treat these problems, or outright eliminate them.

The Basics – Eliminate the sources of the noise (where possible)

disconnect any non-essential devices or shut them off. Pic of a headphone jack disconnected from a phone.

The first and most effective step to improving your room acoustic treatment is to turn off anything that is emitting noise being picked up by your microphone.

Eliminating the source of the noise is by far the best way to deal with the problem. It is completely free, and can even save you money on your electricity bill.

What’s not to love?

Got a noisy ceiling fan woosh? – Turn it off.

Audible AC in the background? You guessed it – Shut it off. Within reason. Don’t put your health in jeopardy. If you need AC on, Keep reading below for how to treat the issue were shutting off the source isn’t possible.

Fish Tank? Well, maybe not that one. Fish need that filter to survive in captivity. Instead, Quietlivety has an article covering 8 ways to reduce the noise of an aquarium you could look into.

Use your mic and an Analyzer VST plugin like MAnalyzer to find the source of noise if not immediately obvious.

Echolocation anyone?

Simple & Free options to improve room acoustics

Shutting your doors is one of the best free room acoustic treatment.

Next up, we have our free options to treat the problems we can’t outright eliminate. These are fairly simple things to do and are often overlooked by streamers who are novices when it comes to understanding room acoustics.

The Doors & Windows – Isolate the room

Simply put, shut your door(s); Close your windows. Pull the shades over the window to act as a rudimentary sound absorption sheet and reduce sound reflection.

By shutting the door, you partially isolate the room from the rest of the house. The same can then be applied to any or all windows, especially if some double or triple-pane glass is in play. This technology (and yes, it is considered a technology) acts to seal the room off externally from the rest of the world and creates air gaps between the panes. In other words, a perfect example of acoustic isolation.

These steps are often overlooked by novices in the streaming world. We see doors wide open in the background of many streamers, even bigger ones. There is no reason for this other than innocent ignorance.

We suggest having a sort of “Pre-flight checklist” that you go over before you go live. It makes a pretty big difference and only takes a couple minutes before each stream to make sure everything is in order. This can go a long way to avoiding mid-stream technical difficulties.

Object Placement within a room
The Bookcase(If you have one)
A bookcase makes an excellent acoustic diffuser.
You can make it look nicer, but you do want it to be somewhat uneven, Small next to big.

Yes indeed, Object placement has a fairly large influence on the acoustics of a room. For example, if you have a bookcase, the best location for this is the wall directly behind you facing the sensitive side of your mic.

This serves as what is known as an acoustic diffuser. It will take the sound that is reflected from the wall in front of you as you speak, sent backward, to reflect again, and instead of a flat reflective wall, meets the bookcase. This results in the sound waves being sent off in random directions because of the oddly shaped objects on the shelf. The Result: substantially reduced echo of your voice, and all you did was relocate a piece of furniture you may already have in your room!

If this is not possible with your current desk placement, try to see if there is any way to move your desk so that you can use this invaluable tool.

Of course, it can be any sort of shelving with any sort of object population, the point is that it is uneven, and filled to the brim with oddly shaped objects. Books work especially well as not all books are the same size, and have a high density as well, allowing the sound waves to be slowed down in addition to being deflected at various angles away from your mic.

Your Desk
A microphone located at the center of a room that has been acoustically treated.

The best location for your desk, (Or microphone) is in the direct center of the room. Ideally, the room would be rectangular in shape, as a perfectly square room is terrible for room acoustics. If you have a square room, you can make a PVC frame and hang a thick, heavy moving blanket on it to create an artificial divider. Alas, you can only do what you can with what you have or can afford.

Moving blankets are a cheap and effective solution as a room acoustic treatment on a tight budget.

The reason the center is best is for even levels of reflection in all directions. You would then apply your acoustic treatment options (covered in the next section) to the front, left and right walls, as well as the ceiling directly above you.

Misc Objects

Ideally, all remaining objects should be packed into the 4 corners of the room to act as bass traps for those corners. More on this below.

Budget Solutions to effective room acoustic treatment

There are very cheap, and very effective things you can do to further enhance the quality of room acoustic treatment. Again, we seek to target a few of the problem areas listed above.

Doors – Always with these doors!

Once again, we take aim at the humble door…

The cheapest thing you can do to treat the door is simple “Weatherstripping” that is typically used for external doors. The idea is that if you seal the air gap, you block all routes for the sound to travel without first hitting that material and slowing down. Slow the waves down enough, and they become inaudible to even your microphone.

Line this weatherstripping onto the frame of the door, rather than the door itself. Then have a friend or family member shine a light at the gap, and turn the lights off. If you see light, you need to adjust the stripping.

That strip is applied to the top, and sides of the door frame where the door touches the frame.

Next, you have the Bottom of the door. For this, you have two options. Either a Door Sweep or a rubber wedge “door Jam”. The first is fairly easy to find but will wear out much quicker than the jam, but the jam is more inconvenient.

A step further with the door

A more expensive and potentially unneeded step for your door has to do with its density, material, and shape. You want a solid core, Flat surface door ideally, so if your door has paneling, or is hollow core, replacing it with one with a solid core will yield better results.

The reason is mentioned above Mass = Absorption.

The more mass the door has, the slower the sound waves get. This reduces the volume of unwanted sound in the room and prevents leaking of sound you do want.

The Windows – and the walls

Normal insulation is good for room acoustic treatment too, just wear gloves and a respirator when working with the material, Outside.
Worth mentioning that any insulation will do wonders for audio, but the denser it is, the better.

Sorry, we couldn’t resist that slant reference. Props to the guys who get it.

Those with double or triple-paned windows can safely skip this step. Of course, an additional air gap is beneficial.

We’re targeting windows next. Short of replacing the window itself with double or triple-pane glass panels, you have one other solution. Measure the frame and add two inches to the total measurements. Then go to your local Lowes or home depot, and ask for those measurements in 1/4′ thick “Lexan”.

Lexan is a clear polycarbonate material, similar to Acrylic, but is slightly better than acrylic for acoustics. Also, ask them what screws would be best to screw into that material and wood, and get 4 of them(Or more, in case you lose em.)

Go home and line the window frame with more of that weatherstripping from the door project, and set the Lexan panel in for a test fitting. Then you may secure it with screws as tightly as you can without stripping the screw.

Walls are next, Almost done!
A microphone situated in an acoustic foam treated room

Next up, we have the walls to consider. Acoustic foam is a viable, and affordable option, and is totally acceptable if insulation based solutions are beyond your budget. While not as effective, they still do an okay job and are substantially better than a bare wall.

What your looking for is 3-inch thick Acoustic foam panels, which will best handle the frequencies of your own voice. You will want to buy about 4 ft wide by 2 feet high worth of this stuff. If your wall space is too small, scale that down as necessary. This wall is mostly optional as your mic will naturally reject noise from this direction.

Remember, you don’t need to cover the entire room, only within the positions that, ironically, the next section’s image covers!

Insulation solutions – For the higher budget streamer
A recording studio using room acoustic treatment panels.
A music studio treatment. Notice there is no Acoustic foam? Those panels can be made of Rockwool, or other acoustic solutions like Owens Corning 703 (Ideally at least 3 inches thick!)

Rock Wool is safe to touch, unlike fiberglass insulation. This makes it very easy to work with, and you can cut it with a serrated knife fairly easily. You’ll want to have 2ft by 4 ft tall panels of this stuff(about 8 total, 3 on each side, and 2 on top.

The sidewalls, to your left and right, should be made of Rockwool panels covered in burlap or some other surface material of your choice. Remember that DIY Canvas project above? Basically that, or what Matt came up with.

You can run wire through the corners of the Rockwool panel and hang them on a nail on a stud as if it were a picture frame. As each panel is 6lbs, you need to make sure it’s in a stud. This makes it extremely easy to remove later on, and is apartment-friendly, no need to glue them.

If instead, you prefer a prefabricated solution, ATS makes some pretty decent panels. You will spend more on these vs making them yourself, and they aren’t made of Rockwool.

As for the ceiling, the last step for panel treatment; This is a bit more complicated, you’ll need to secure at least 2-4 panels similar to the above image (Or ignore it entirely). The ceiling is often neglected, but for the best results, it is one of the most crucial steps.

The corners, a bass-ic problem

How many corners are in your room? 4? 8? Actually, in a rectangular room, there are 20. Insert “The scream”.

Credit to GhostBishop for this image.

You have the 4 corners you’d expect and associate with the word “corner” but then you also have the path to those 4 corners. So 8 corners. Mirror that for the floor. And don’t forget the extra 4 from the walls where the floor meets the ceiling.

All of those corners like to trap low-frequency sound, due to the physics of air pressure. This is a problem for sound.

The answer? Bass traps.

Now, you could buy Foam traps, but remember that Rock Wool? That stuff is amazing. You probably will have leftover Rockwool from your wall panels if you chose to buy them; Cut that up into triangles, and stack it up in the corners. Then cover in burlap to secure them together. You’ve just made your very own bass trap, and it will look a lot better than the foam ones, and work as well as, if not better than them too; all with leftover material.

The corners you want to focus on are the top 8 corners, and the 4 mid corners. The bottom ones are less of a concern.

W-what about the floor?

Nope. Ya done. We want some floor reflection because it sounds more natural to us because that is how our ears work for audio cues and the like. If you have a carpet, that’s fine, but don’t go thinking “I need to put carpet in my room?!” Because even hardwood is completely fine.

Software Solutions for decent Room Acoustic Treatment

The last line of defense against acoustic mayhem is a software one. We’re referring to software noise cancellation using VST plugins or RTX Voice if you have a supported card.

Using this, if nothing else, will help to reduce the noise levels in your mic’s signal. They won’t help any echo you have though, that is the sole domain of physical treatment.

The Big drawback to these solutions is that is reduces the audio signal quality, because it works by eliminating problem frequencies from the signal. But if you have a noisy environment, it is usually better to take this quality hit than to present that to whoever is listening.

Beyond the basics

HVAC unit for studios aiding room acoustic treatment

Well, now that we’ve covered the basics… Yep, those were just the basics… Let’s introduce you to the big guns. Doing these will require structural changes, and require permits to implement. They are all very expensive, and should only be considered if you are a partner and are dedicating a room to be the home studio for your job.

The more acoustically isolated you become, the more expensive it becomes, and will even require an HVAC unit to cycle the air out, or you will suffocate from CO2 buildup. It is for this reason we recommend consulting a professional company that does this sort of thing in your area before attempting ANY of these treatments.

Due to the complex nature of the treatments, and the expense, we’re not going to cover beyond what we already have. As stated above, If you wish to take it a step further, you will need to consult acoustic professionals who do home studio work. Expect to pay in the Thousands for room acoustic treatment at this level.

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